"Are you ok in there?"
"Yeah, sorry." But in truth I was not ok. Something was wrong. I swore again in the small but somehow spacious soundproof room. I was just quieter this time.
I've always been a musician. I may have denied it at times, but music has always been my everything. Even if I didn't know it.
As you can see, my family started me young on this whole music thing. It's hard to see but that's my mom letting me listen to headphones as a baby. Not long after that I got my 1st (Smurf) guitar & I was playing the "drums" with my dad in the kitchen. If my parents ever ask me why I went into music I'll just show them these pictures.
There were times in middle school or high school that music wasn't as prevalent in my life but at my core I was always a "Walkman" kid. The dude who listened to music non-stop. I always had a Walkman, a Discman, or an iPod to help me keep music close at all times, especially when I wasn't pursing music as a passion. Jump cut to January 2017 where I'm sitting in a chair inside an audiologist's office explaining that my right ear keeps ringing long after rehearsal has concluded & I feel this sense of pressure inside my ear. I also feel like maybe I'm not hearing out of my right ear very well.
The audiologist has a free standing "room" inside of her office. It's really more like a fallout shelter for those with damaged hearing. Thick walls, & eerily silent by design so that all hearing tests can be conducted with absolute precision.
I'm fitted with special ear plugs that can send tones of all frequencies to each ear individually. All I have to do is sit in the room & click a button every time I hear a tone. I will do this about 10 times per ear.
We start on my left ear. The whole process takes maybe a minute. I hear a low tone, press the button. I hear a high tone, press the button.
We move to my right ear. I get anxious waiting for the test to start. There's a lull, the test isn't starting. My anxiety is squeezing my chest. I think, "why can't we get this started??? I need to fix what's going on." Then I realize, the test has started. I just can't hear the tones in my right ear.
"*#%^." That was louder than I intended.
"Are you ok in there?" I hear in my special ear plugs.
"Yeah, sorry." But in truth I was not ok. Something was wrong. I swore again in the small but somehow spacious soundproof room. I was just quieter this time. This was the hard part.
All of my symptoms combined could mean that I somehow suffered a traumatic hearing injury, in only one ear, or I may have a rare form of cancer. The injury is unlikely. I don't shoot guns or ride motorcycles, but it's more likely than cancer. Two different doctors have assured me that this type of cancer is very rare & the MRI is only a precaution. This is supposed to make me feel better, but it doesn't.
I also may have degenerative hearing loss. Something that's not curable. But we won't know about that unless my hearing gets worse. One doctor has also mentioned that my playing days are probably over, at least in a live setting. No more playing rock star on any stages.
By this time I've already quit my band, Front Porch Reunion. They were fantastic about it, everybody understood. That was a band forged from friendship, not a desire to take my music career to new heights. They are good people & good friends.
Days go by before I get a call from the doctor. "No cancer," he says. I'm relieved but now there is an unknown enemy. I go back to get more hearing tests. My hearing doesn't appear to have become worse so now I just need to go back every 12-18 months to get hearing checks to see if my hearing is disintegrating. Not ideal, but doable. As of this writing, I'm still unsure of what is happening with my hearing. I only know that it hasn't gotten worse.
If one good thing came out of all of this it's this:
The medical scare forced me to realize that music was the most important thing in my life. My original plan was to reduce my time practicing law by 50% in 2017. As you know already, I left my day job completely in July of that year. This may have scared me half to death, but it definitely made me prioritize what I was doing in my life. I had to figure out how to keep making music, safely.
One of the doctors had an idea for me to try.
I was fitted for custom ear plugs. I had each ear canal filled with silicon to create a mold & then had ear plugs made that fit in my ear-holes perfectly. Not only are they the most comfortable hearing protection I've ever had, but I hear everything better than ever on stage. I've been given the green light to hop back on stage & my new band plays out regularly.
What was an undeniably stressful start to 2017 has so far turned out to be a blessing. I made a great new friend in the form of a mentor/musician coach named Cheryl. I wrote about her in my 1st blog post of 2018. I recommitted myself to making as much music as I could. I started helping other musicians make their own records. I started mixing other people's music. I started being a musician, for real.
I'm still worried about my hearing, but for now, all I can do is keep doing what I love.
Thanks for hanging out with me on this journey. See you soon.